The industry of massage therapy has come a long way in the past 20 years or so. Like any industry, ours has evolved. Most growing industries mature and evolve in both positive and negative ways. This is certainly true for therapeutic massage and in particular mobile massage.
As the demand for massage has grown across the country, different kinds of companies have emerged to satisfy that demand. Mobile massage, also known as on site massage, traveling massage, or outcall massage, including everything from in home massage, massage in hotel rooms, to corporate office chair massage and on-site event massage, has also grown in popularity over recent years.
When I started Body Well in 2005, one of my goals was to try to bring a higher level of professionalism, customer service and quality to mobile massage services. As more companies now enter this niche space, I have started to notice a trend that concerns me as someone who cares deeply about the experience people have when they procure this kind of service.
Appreciating the Massage Journey
Why the concern? Some services are all about the destination. For example when you order a taxi or use an app to get a ride somewhere, it’s all about simply getting to your destination. The details of the journey are not really that important as long as you arrive safely. The same applies to many other kinds of services. When you order a plumber, you really just want to get your pipe fixed or your drain unclogged. It doesn’t matter much how the plumber gets the job done, and who really cares how far down his backside his pants have crept!
So getting a ride from point A to point B or getting your pipes fixed could almost be called commodity type services. As long as the job gets done, that’s what’s important. Unless you already have some particular loyalty to the provider, who does it really isn’t. A basic level of competency is generally all that is required to meet a customer’s goals.
In some ways, for certain clients, massage is also mostly about the destination. Someone wants to get a kink in their neck worked out or gain mobility in their stiff shoulder.
But it’s also often about the journey. For some, it’s entirely about the journey! It’s about enjoying the experience from the first moment a massage therapist puts his or her hands on you, until the end of a (hopefully) deeply satisfying session. The journey is important – even almost magical for some.
This is why I would argue massage is anything but a commodity, and it is a mistake to look at is as such. All massage therapists are not created equal, and the highly subjective nature of the service means that the differences between the experience of using one massage therapist versus another make all the difference.
What I’ve noticed lately, which troubles me, is that those who now get into the massage business or the delivery of mobile massage services increasingly look at it as simply a money making opportunity, or a way to cleverly use technology and apps to deliver a mobile massage service. It’s a lot easier to create a service business when the product is seen as a commodity. Then it only comes down to things like how convenient the booking process is or how quickly one can obtain an appointment. It’s pretty black and white once you’ve boiled it down to the bare essentials and taken anything subjective out of the equation (like – is my Massage Therapist average or awesome?).
Admittedly making things more convenient for customers definitely has merit, but depending on how this is executed it can come at a great expense. When quality of services comes at the expense of convenience, in my view things are trending in the wrong direction. Unfortunately this type of thing can build upon itself and eventually take a toll on the level of service customers come to expect. When customers consistently get mediocre massage therapists, they may come to see that as the norm. This might be good for the company booking those services and the mediocre therapist who now has more opportunities to get work, but ultimately we end up with clients that often don’t really know what they are missing! (Cont…)
When customers start getting used to the idea that in massage is a massage, something has gone seriously wrong in a business that should be all about personalization, and something that I would argue should be seen as actually quite special.
Massage is not a commodity. I encourage mobile massage (and all kinds of massage) customers to have higher expectations! Patronize businesses that care about quality, cater to client’s individual needs, and understand down to their corporate soul how special massage therapy can and should forever be.
Dan Melmed, LMT
Owner & Founder, Body Well